Message from Kevin Zeese
Day Eight: Smoking Out Gore, the Journey Concludes
September 29, 2000
The final day of the Journey began at 10:00 AM with a two-mile procession from the Mexican American Cultural Center down Congress Street to the State Capitol Building. The procession included approximately 300 people. It was a diverse crowd dominated by the Journeyers from Tulia who wore green shirts saying "Friends of Justice." No doubt participating in the Journey accomplished the goal of the Tulia leaders: to empower the people of Tulia whose community had been decimated by the arrest of nearly one-third of the young African American men in Tulia after an 18-month undercover drug investigation.
The demonstrators chanted a variety of slogans, among them:
Educate: Don't Incarcerate
Two Million is Too Many in the Land of the Free
No More Drug War
There is a Better Way: Love Not Hate
The police were cooperative and led us through the city streets without any problems. We were required by the police to start the procession a half hour earlier than we wanted but that was due to a miscommunication and not their fault. In an effort to arrive at the press conference at the intended time we moved slowly. The only complaint from the police was that our slow pace was overheating their motorcycles.
We arrived at the Capitol Building a little earlier than planned which enabled a delegation to visit with a representative of Governor Bush's Administration while the demonstrators rallied outside the building. The delegation to Governor Bush included Tiffany Landreth, a patient who lives in Texas, Kay Lee, the founder of the Journey and Tiffany's mother, Michael Krawitz, a medical patient from Virginia, Jodi James, the Journey organizer and me. The discussion with Linda Edwards, Communications Director for the Governor, initially focused on medical marijuana. Tiffany explained her medical condition and how marijuana was an essential medicine. We asked three things:
We thanked Governor Bush for supporting states rights on the issue of medical marijuana and asked that he continue to hold that view;
We asked that he speak in favor of judges and juries being able to consider the medical necessity defense in cases where appropriate; and
We asked that he work with the legislature to activate a medical marijuana research program as allowed by Texas law.
Further, if he were to become president we urged he change federal law and regulations to allow safe access to marijuana for the seriously ill. After discussing medical marijuana we focused on the over incarceration of non-violent drug offenders in the United States in general and Texas in particular. After providing the facts on this issue we urged Governor Bush to develop policies to ameliorate this problem.
The noon press conference was attended by a handful of cameras and reporters including representatives of The New York Times and Associated Press. Al Robison of Drug Policy Forum of Texas gave an overview of the negative effects of current drug policy. Reverend Kiker of Tulia described the drug war as "the American form of ethnic cleansing." The ACLU announced its intention to file a lawsuit against the Tulia County Sheriff, District Attorney and undercover agent. Various Journeyers spoke describing the Journey and our meeting with the Governor's aide. I spoke describing some of the injustices we had seen along the Journey for Justice and urged that while this is the end of the Journey it is really only the beginning of our nation's journey for justice.
After the press event the Journeyers and some of our allies went to the Headquarters of the Democratic Party in the State of Texas. The purpose of our visit was to protest Vice President Gore's recent inaccurate statement on MTV. In response to a question about medical marijuana the Vice President stated that there was no evidence that marijuana was an effective medicine. This false statement upset many of the Journeyers who suffer from serious illnesses and for whom marijuana is an essential medicine. They wanted to take aggressive action against the Vice President for this misstatement of fact.
Eddie Smith, a cancer and AIDS patient, was particularly upset. He was part of a delegation that went to visit James Gaston the Executive Director of the State Democratic Party. Also in the delegation were John Precup a wheelchair bound multiple sclerosis patient from Ohio; Cathy Jordan, a wheelchair bound Lou Gehrig's disease patient; Kay Lee; Jodi James; and me. Initially Mr. Gaston did not want to speak with us claiming the Democratic Party had nothing to do with Vice President Gore. While we acknowledged that there was a legal separation between the Party and the Gore Campaign, we also noted the Gore 2000 posters and stickers on their walls and in their windows.
Cathy Jordan, the longest surviving Lou Gehrig's Disease patient in the United States, told Mr. Gaston that she had been trying to reach Al Gore or someone at the Gore campaign for over a year. She said she would meet the Vice President anywhere and anytime convenient for him to tell him the truth about medical marijuana. John Precup described how medical marijuana controlled the muscle spasm's of his MS.
Eddie Smith, after describing his essential medical need for marijuana to control the nausea and vomiting caused by his AIDS medicine, said he wanted to show Mr. Gaston the use of medical marijuana and began to consume his medicine. Mr. Gaston said: "Don't do that here." Eddy replied: "If I can't do it here, where can I do it?" As he smoked Mr. Gaston became very upset. He called me to his office to express his displeasure. I explained this was a First Amendment activity targeted at the Vice President for his inaccurate statements. It was up to Mr. Gaston to decide whether to arrest an AIDS/cancer patient for his use of a medicine or to allow him to use marijuana. He said he was concerned about being part of a marijuana conspiracy or aiding and abetting a criminal act. I explained that he now had a sense of what medical marijuana patients have to feel every day when they fear arrest for using a medicine.
We went back to the group and Mr. Gaston asked Eddie to stop his marijuana use. Eddie explained he would not stop until he was finished. Mr. Gaston said to me, "Can't you do anything about this?" I said, it is not my decision; it is up to Eddie. Security arrived and Mr. Gaston looked unsure what to do and then decided to send security away. Eddie finished his medical use and as we left we explained to Mr. Gaston that the Gore campaign should be warned that other actions like this are likely because seriously ill people were very upset with his comments. Further, it was very likely that Mr. Gore will lose a lot of votes to Ralph Nader unless he corrects this misstatement.
We realize that this type of civil disobedience is controversial, but when a candidate for president makes a misstatement of fact that is damaging to seriously ill people, extraordinary actions are sometimes warranted. This is particularly true in this case where Mr. Gore has personal experience with marijuana and personal experience with family members who could have benefited from its medical use. His hypocrisy makes his statements deserving of a loud and aggressive public rebuke.
We ended the day with a demonstration in front of Governor Bush's mansion. Approximately 100 demonstrators stood in front of the governor's mansion holding signs and chanting slogans. A group of 50 bicycle riders rode by several times to show their support and dozens of motorists honked their horns in support of our cause.
Jodi James ended the Journey for Jubilee Justice in Texas urging people to continue to fight for justice. She urged people in Texas to build on the work the Journey had done and urged people in other states to support vigils and journeys in their state.
Many people along the way joined the Journey for Justice. Their support was greatly appreciated. Each person who participated in the Journey played an important role. Below is a list of the people who participated in the complete Journey from Houston to Austin.
Scott Bledoe, Florida
Tommy Brendenstein, Arizona
Ronald Goldberg, Virginia
Jodi James, Florida
Michael Krawitz, Virginia
Tiffany Landreth, Texas
Kay Lee, Florida
Mary Mackenzie, Arizona
Michael Marko, Florida
Ann McCormick, Rhode Island
Brian McCullough, Kentucky
Cher McCullough, Kentucky
Joe Ptak, Texas
Eddie Smith, Kentucky
Arlo Stefanoff, Texas
Zeal Stefanoff, Texas
Dennis "Murli" Watkins, Florida
Kevin Zeese, Virginia
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